In the previous two posts, we looked at moralistic preaching and allegorical preaching. In this post, we will look just briefly at gnostic preaching.
Another unintended consequence of not preaching what is actually found in a passage is that listeners are given a gnostic view of Scripture. The Gnostics were were a cult group in the early church who claimed secret knowledge that gave them their unique understanding of Scripture - a knowledge to which others were not privy. I have not studied how the gnostics in the early church preached but would like to appropriate the term “gnostic” to describe a particular preaching abomination that I have often witnessed.
Gnostic preaching happens when a preacher uses the text of Scripture as a springboard to preach about something that is not actually found in the passage. His listeners are left with the impression that if they didn’t have the preacher to tell them the meaning of the passage, then they could never have understood it for themselves. The preacher must have some special knowledge that enabled him to pull THAT meaning from THIS text. Here is Thailand, it is often assumed that the preacher must have gotten that special knowledge from his classes at Bible college - knowledge to which the common man does not have access. Therefore an unhealthy dependence on the preacher is fostered. People are lulled into thinking that they NEED the preacher to understand the Scripture because the Scripture itself is not clear enough taken on its own. At the end of a gnostic sermon, the listeners say, “Wow! I would never have figured that out from reading this passage of Scripture if the preacher hadn’t told us what it meant.” At the end of a Biblical sermon, the listeners say, “Wow! I don’t know how I didn’t see that before. What the preacher said is all there so clearly in this passage of Scripture!”
While there is great benefit in digging deeply into the Word of God at a seminary or Bible college, it is a tragic misunderstanding of the role of formal theological education to think that Bible school imparts secret spiritual knowledge that a normal person could not attain by a careful study of the Scriptures for themselves. Gnostic preaching demeans the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and unduly exalts the supposed special knowledge of the man preaching. The ironic thing about gnostic preaching is that often times the “special knowledge” that listeners think that the pastor got at Bible school is not from Bible school at all but the preacher’s own ideas and experience. And if you are preaching your own ideas and experience as the Word of God, then that is certainly very special knowledge indeed - known only to you!
In my next post, we’ll take a further look at the unintended consequences of preaching that uses the Bible but is not grounded in what the Bible is actually saying.
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 1: Missing the Point
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 2: Moralistic Preaching
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 3: Allegorical Preaching
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 4: Gnostic Preaching
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 5: Consequences
Unbiblical Preaching - Part 6: Sources